Trustees at Keller Independent School District say they will be focusing the month of February on a new budget to dig the district out of a $28 million shortfall.
Although the district is blaming the legislature for inadequate funding, Texas lawmakers allocated over $93.6 billion for government education in 2023, including several billion in new funding.
However, during the board’s January 25 meeting, Keller ISD Superintendent Tracy Johnson said the legislature is not providing increased funding to fix the district’s budget deficit problem.
“Our state could fix this problem today. They could call a fifth special session,” said Johnson. “But there is no talk, no hope of a fifth special session. So we’re gonna have to solve this problem ourselves.”
In her presentation, Johnson pointed to other districts that are facing budget shortfalls, including other North Texas districts like Fort Worth ISD, which is dealing with a deficit of $50 million—partially due to district mismanagement.
Johnson claims that Keller ISD is facing a budget deficit because of underfunded mandates from the state, including safety and security requirements mandated by House Bill 3 and STAAR technology, paired with inflation. She added that the district is still running on the same money that they were given back in 2019.
As reported by Texas Scorecard, the state’s “basic allotment” is $6,160. However, once additional allotments, federal funds, and other sources of funding are taken into account, the Texas Education Agency’s newest report states that Texas actually spends nearly $15,000 per student.
Johnson said that the district will not cut a single student program, instead focusing cuts elsewhere.
“We’re not taking away opportunity from kids,” she said. “We’re still going to focus on instruction. We’re still going to focus and allow what we hold personal to this district.”
Rather, the trustees are directing their attention to cutting personnel, streamlining programs, and changing procedures that deal with budgets.
“The reality is, there might be some people that have to think about what their job looks like differently, and it not being in Keller ISD. Because $28 million—you can’t find that money in papers and paper clips and toner; you find it in people, because 86 percent of our budget is people,” said Johnson.
Since 2017, Keller ISD has grown its non-instructional administration by 46.4 percent. Meanwhile, the district has grown instructional faculty by only 10.7 percent.
Besides staff cuts, some employees, including librarians and other specialized faculty, will be shared between the various campuses.
Johnson said there will also be changes to department budgeting, including having each department justify their entire budget each year. The new budgeting plan will combine with a centralized purchasing process for instructional materials to find additional efficiencies in Keller ISD’s procedures.
President of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility Andrew McVeigh told Texas Scorecard that districts need to be more fiscally responsible in this manner.
“In a time when taxpayers are being taxed out of their homes and out of business, school districts must be fiscally responsible stewards of taxpayer money, while cutting spending and taxes whenever possible,” said McVeigh.
As the trustees work on the new budget, they said they hope to have specific personnel cuts ready by the end of February.
Keller ISD told Texas Scorecard that both non-instructional administration positions and instructional positions will be impacted by staff cuts.